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New website! I’ve moved!

Just a friendly reminder that Daily Crave moved to a new website in July 2012. Please subscribe to the new website at: http://nataliesdailycrave.com/

I apologize to those of you who have unanswered questions or inquiries on this site — please leave any questions on http://www.nataliesdailycrave.com!

Thank You!
Natalie

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We’ve Moved – A reminder!

Just one last quick note to remind everyone that we’ve moved on over to www.nataliesdailycrave.com.

All posts going forward will be on the new site.  All of the email subscriptions have been sent out, so if you didn’t get one please re-subscribe by going directly to the website.

Thanks and hope to see you there!

Natalie

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We’ve Moved!

I’m excited to present to you all the new and improved blog: Natalie’s Daily Crave at www.nataliesdailycrave.com

Head on over to the new site and check it out!

If you’re a current subscriber via email, you’ll recieve an email shortly to re-subscribe to the new site.  If you follow by other means please re-subscribe by clicking on the link above.

Hope to see you there!

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How to Cook Like a Pro

There are very few things in life that are more disheartening than finding an amazing sounding recipe, making the time to seek out and buy the ingredients, spending your entire afternoon cooking it for your family, and then you end up feeding it to the dog.  Who is probably only eating it out of sympathy.  Huge disappointment (not to mention a waste of your time and money). Sometimes it’s not even that bad, but doesn’t nearly live up to the expectations you had for it. I can see why this would make people want to throw in the kitchen towel. 

The joy of cooking is to be able to produce food that moves you.  That makes you eager to cook it again and again so that each time you put it in your mouth you say Wow all over again. You want to be rewarded for your work and to be proud to share it with others.  This is how cooking should be.

I know that I often times take for granted a lot of little things while in the kitchen and what seems obvious to me may be easily overlooked by the home cook. For this, I wanted to compile a list of the most important tips that I believe separate the professionals from the home cooks. These are always a given for the pros and if you stick to these guidelines you will easily be getting professional results at home.

 1.Keepin’ it Real – Good food begins way before you start cooking.  Sourcing out the freshest ingredients will always yield better results.  I know many of you will curse me for saying it, but you won’t get the same flavor from garlic in a jar that you will get from freshly grated garlic.  It is really worth the extra step!

As a general rule, stay real and keep it fresh.

 

2. Salt is a man’s best friend – Many home cooks underestimate the power of salt. It is absolutely the important ingredient you will ever use in your kitchen. Salt is what brings out the flavor in your food and makes it come to life.  It is that one crucial ingredient that could possibly be keeping your food from going to new heights.  If you’ve prepared a dish from a recipe and it tastes good, but it’s just missing that “something,” often times you need to add a little more salt to take it from being good to being GREAT.

Also, it is important that you start salting your dish from the beginning and continue slowly salting throughout the cooking process. 

A brief example of this is to begin by salting your water when cooking pasta to help boost the flavor of the pasta.  Then continue by salting your sauce (a little at a time – be careful not to over salt, you can always add more, but can’t take away).  Once the pasta and sauce are cooked and combined you check it one last time for seasoning and add a little more salt, if needed. 

Start practicing with salt and you will begin to notice a world of difference.

3. Embrace fat- Don’t be afraid of fat. Using just the right amount — whether it be vegetable fat or animal fat — adds an unparalleled flavor and texture to your food that you won’t find with any other ingredient.  I know that many of us associate the word fat with negative connotations (it’s hard not to in our stick figure-crazed, yet overweight society), but it’s all about being balanced and remembering that our bodies actually need fat. Everything in moderation.  Just remember that being healthy means being balanced.

4. It’s all about the Technique – This is the one that really sets the experts apart from the rest.  It is what pros have spent tons of time in culinary school learning or hours in professional kitchens doing over and over again. It does take some practice, but if you’re willing to learn, you will be able to pick up on the important techniques that help produce stellar results. Start paying close attention to the directions when you read recipes and you’ll notice patterns.

For example, the first step in making Beef Bourguignon is to get the pot very hot with your oil or butter and then add the beef and brown on all sides.  The first step to making a roasted Pork Tenderloin is to get the pot very hot with your oil or butter and then add the pork and brown on all sides.  The first step to making a Rack of Lamb is to get the pot very hot with your oil or butter and then add the lamb and brown on all sides. You notice a pattern? Get a few solid techniques under your belt, and then it doesn’t matter what you are making you can follow the technique and you know your results will be delicious each time.

A great cookbook that I highly recommend is a book by Michael Ruhlman, called Ruhlman’s Twenty.  It has 100 recipes categorized by 20 different techniques and complete with step by step pictures.  It’s a great way to get the essentials down pat.

5. Layer the flavor – There are many, many powerful ingredients in the kitchen that allow you to build flavor and add dimension to your dish (think acidity, spices, garlic, onions, etc). I’ve spoken with many people who omit these types of ingredients from recipes because they dislike their strong flavors.  Let’s take onions for an example.  There is a distinct difference between making a dish that has onions in it and using onions as a flavor base for your dish.  If you dislike onions, you are probably not going to go for an onion soup, but if you use those onions as the foundation to your vegetable soup, it will help give that soup a deeper flavor and extra dimension.  And it won’t taste like onions –  I promise! 

So, lastly learn the difference between using an ingredient in your dish or using it as a flavor additive.  Don’t be afraid to use those powerful flavors!

 

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Spicy Beef Chili n’ Cheddar Cheese Grits

When it comes to grits, you either love them or think you hate them.  Personally, I have a serious soft spot for grits.  I was once among the crowds that thought I hated them, but it wasn’t until I went down south that I realized they are so much more than the bland instant breakfast kind that is often thought of.  

More specifically, stone ground grits. They are so good, that when prepared the right way, they melt in your mouth like buttery mashed potatoes.  And as a bonus: easy to make.

In Charleston, the most irresistibly delicious variations are just about everywhere you go.  Most commonly you’ll see Shrimp & Grits on the menu, which is a low-country staple — so. heavenly. delicious.  Instead of the classic I thought I’d go for a get-through-the-last-few-weeks-of-wintery-blues dish.   Chunky beef chili over creamy cheddar grits. Comfort food at it’s finest!

You can’t find yellow stone ground grits everywhere, but they can be can ordered online at several different places if you live in an area that doesn’t sell them at the local grocery store.

Cheddar Cheese Grits

(Cooking tip: Grits need a lot of salt to help bring out the flavors.  If your grits taste good, but need just a little boost to make them delicious, you probably need to add more salt)

  •  1 ½ cup Yellow Stone Ground Grits
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 6 tbs butter
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated yourself

Bring the milk and chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly stir in the grits and salt and bring back to a boil.  Cover, turn down the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes (or until grits are tender), stirring occasionally to prevent the grits from burning on the bottom.   Once grits are tender, stir in butter and half & half, season with pepper and salt (a lot of salt!) and then turn off heat and stir in cheese.

Spicy Beef Chili

  • 1 lb beef shoulder or other beef for stew, cubed
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbs ancho chili powder
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • a dash of Worcestershire
  • a dash of hot sauce
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper

Heat a few spoonfuls of olive oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot, on high heat.  Season beef cubes with salt and pepper on all sides and add to pan.  Sear the beef on add sides until nice and brown.  Remove beef from pan when browned.

Add onions and jalapenos to pot and saute, while scraping up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan (that is where a lot of your flavor comes from).  Saute until the onions are softened and then add garlic. Cook for a minute more.  Add all of the spices and cook for another minute.  Add brown sugar, tomato paste, Worcestershire, hot sauce and incorporate into the spices.  Last, return the beef back to the pot, add the chicken stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil (ensure the chicken stock covers all of the beef completely — if not, add a little water).  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Add the beans and cook for about 30 minutes to one hour more or until your beef is tender and pulls apart with a fork. 

Serve over grits and with additional cheese if desired.

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CNL — Come check me out!

So, I have a facebook page now.  Now, as in for about 2 years now.  Needless to say, I haven’t been the most diligent at keeping up with it, but I am turning over a new leaf. 

Unlike Daily Crave, my goal on the facebook page is to share some of the business side of things.  I’ll be giving you sneak peeks of dinner parties, private lessons, different events, and of course some fun food photos.  So if you’re on facebook come check it out and “like me” here.

Next up: Spicy Beef Chili over Cheddar Cheese Grits

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New Year, New Look

Out with the old in with the new.  So long two thousand eleven!  I’m starting off twenty-twelve with a new look.  What do you think?

It’s always bittersweet to start a new year.  Life happens at lightening speed, so I love having this little reminder to take time out and reflect on all the greatness that has taken place. 

It’s been a fun year here at Daily Crave and I genuinely thank all of you that have been reading, cooking and commenting with me from the beginning.  And, of course, a huge welcome to all of the new followers that came along in 2011.

Have a blissful New Year and I’ll see ya on the flip side!  

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